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Pandemic Influenza Information

Pandemic Flu Resources

SLAC and Stanford

State, Federal and World Health Agencies

Frequently-asked Questions

What is SLAC doing about pandemic influenza?

A lab-wide task force has been meeting to refine response plans related to infection control. It includes representatives from the Department of Energy; SLAC’s Emergency Response Organization (security, fire & emergency management and occupational medicine); facilities; communications; the offices of the chief financial, operations and information officers; and human resources.

The lab is basing its response on guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on 2009 H1N1 flu (swine flu), as well as by Stanford University and local public health departments. The planning group is discussing both the short-term response to illness and a long-term response, should the pandemic move toward becoming a crisis.

So far the 2009 H1N1 flu has been no more severe than the seasonal flu we see every year. However, like seasonal flu it can be deadly for people who are immune-compromised and those with chronic medical conditions. SLAC is providing seasonal flu vaccinations for employees and medical care for those who need it; encouraging staff, students, users and contractors to stay home while ill; and educating the community about how to avoid infection and stay healthy.

The SLAC-internal page SLAC Pandemic Disease Preparedness Plan [pdf] applies to the initial pandemic influenza outbreak, as well as to subsequent waves. A pandemic outbreak could interrupt normal SLAC functioning two weeks to several months. At all times, the health and safety of the whole community is of paramount importance. Protocols for health and safety measures have been developed and will be communicated.

If the disease progresses and becomes more widespread, the danger to the Stanford/SLAC community will increase. The Preparedness Plan and its response actions are based upon six action levels. The progression of these levels may occur rapidly and may be altered due to the nature of the pandemic outbreak or recommendations of county, state, or federal authorities. These action levels are described in detail in the Preparedness Plan.

What happens if the flu becomes more severe?

The task force is developing contingency plans for various scenarios. In the worst case, the lab would shut down except for a small crew of essential staff. This decision would be taken only if the H1N1 outbreak becomes much more serious than it has been so far, after consulting public health officials, and at a time when dispersing SLAC staff and users is essential for preventing further transmission of the virus.

How will the lab communicate updates?

Updates will be issued through SLAC Today, all-hands emails, and this Web site. In an emergency, the toll-free SLAC Status Information line, 877-447-7522, will be updated with recorded messages.

Does SLAC have any of the antiviral drugs shown to be effective in treating the flu?

The SLAC Medical Department’s limited supply of Tamiflu is being reserved for essential personnel in the case of a shutdown; however, the medical staff can give you a prescription for Tamiflu or other antiviral, or you can get one from your doctor. Antivirals relieve flu symptoms but do not cure or prevent the flu; therefore they should be taken only after flu symptoms appear.

Will SLAC be administering the vaccine for H1N1?

The federal government is overseeing the development of a vaccine, and the public health system will be responsible for all vaccine distribution programs. SLAC is prepared to play a role in administering the vaccine, which will be given in addition to the lab’s annual seasonal flu shot program and according to priorities set by the CDC.

How is SLAC working to reduce the spread of H1N1?

The lab will continue to aggressively communicate with staff, students, users and contractors about how they can make themselves less vulnerable to the flu and other airborne viruses, following guidelines established by the CDC and county public health authorities. SLAC Facilities will be installing hand sanitizers in convenient locations throughout the lab in the coming weeks. People who fall ill will be encouraged to stay home.

What is the lab’s sick leave policy regarding H1N1?

It’s the same as for other illnesses, except that if the flu becomes widespread, employees will not be required to get medical clearance before returning to work

What if I come down sick at work?

It is recommended that you go to the SLAC Medical Department for evaluation.

What services are available from the SLAC medical department?

SLAC Medical offers comprehensive medical evaluations, emergency treatment, over-the-counter medications, prescriptions for antivirals and other medications, emotional support and on-site counseling services.

As a supervisor, what should I do if one of my employees appears to have the flu?

Send the employee to the SLAC Medical Department for evaluation.

What is the policy for contract employees who get the flu?

Contractors are responsible for their employees and set their own policies. Check with the contractor as issues arise.

Can my supervisor make temporary changes to my job assignment or change my work schedule so my group can carry out essential functions during an emergency?

Yes.

If the lab shuts down and I’m required to stay at home even though I’m not sick, will I get paid?

Lab management will determine if employees continue to receive regular pay during a shutdown. If not, employees may use accrued sick leave, vacation or personal time off or take leave without pay. The lab will announce a system for distributing paychecks as needed. Employees are encouraged to sign up for direct deposit now, if they have not already done so, to avoid the need for handling paychecks. The form is available in the Payroll Office, Bldg. 41, Rm. 216.

Will I be allowed to telecommute?

Yes, if your job can be performed remotely and with the consent of your supervisor.

What if I have to travel abroad?

Public health authorities consider the spread of H1N1 to be global, with ongoing community-level outbreaks occurring in multiple parts of the world.

The CDC website contains the following recommendations for travel to areas reporting novel H1N1 flu: “CDC recommends that travelers at high risk for complications from any form of flu discuss their travel plans with their doctor. Together, they should look carefully at the H1N1 flu situation in their destination and the available healthcare options in the area. They should discuss their specific health situations and possible increased risk of traveling to the area affected by novel H1N1 flu.” 

Where can I get the most current information about the spread of the pandemic influenza?

The best sources are the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization Web sites.

How do you catch the flu?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Flu viruses spread in respiratory droplets sprayed by coughing and sneezing. They usually spread from person to person, though people sometimes become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. You may be able to infect others up to two days before feeling any symptoms and up to five days after becoming sick.

How do you know if you have the flu or a simple cold? And how do you tell the difference between H1N1 influenza and other flu?

Flu usually, but not always, comes with higher temperatures than colds: 102 to 104 degrees F as opposed to less than 101 F. Flu generally comes on very quickly and is characterized by severe feelings of weakness and fatigue. Flu often comes with headaches, while colds generally cause mild headaches from sinus congestion. Sneezing and nasal congestion are more common with colds than with the flu. Coughs are generally more severe with the flu, as are muscle aches.

The symptoms of H1N1 are generally quite similar to those of other types of flu: fever, headache, upper respiratory tract symptoms including sore throats and coughs, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. At this time of year, any flu is likely to be caused by H1N1. It will be very hard to tell if someone who is sick has H1N1 flu or seasonal flu. Public health officials and medical authorities will not be recommending laboratory tests.

For more details and specific symptoms, see What To Do If You Get Sick: 2009 H1N1 and Seasonal Flu from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How can I avoid getting the flu or passing it along to others?
 

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective only if they contain at least 62% alcohol, so check the label before you buy one. Hand-sanitizer dispensers are being installed throughout the lab.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, Stanford's revised return to work policy for influenza-like illnesses requires that you remain at home until at least 24 hours after you are free of fever (100° F /38°C) or signs of fever (chills, flushed appearance, sweating), without the use of fever-reducing medications. These are based on the CDC recommendations. During this time, try to keep away from others as much as possible to avoid making others sick.

When should I seek medical care?

Anyone who is concerned about his or her illness or who has developed severe symptoms should consider seeking medical attention. This is especially true of those at high risk of complications because of chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease, or a compromised immune system. They should speak to their healthcare provider as soon as possible and are encouraged to seek attention at the first sign of symptoms.

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